July 14, 2005
Fantasy Football Widows and Orphans
Posted by Christine Hurt

Espn

In my introduction to the strange world of gambling, I have found that in the U.S., there is a big elephant in the room when regulators talk about the dangers of gambling.  Sports gambling.  At the same time that the DOJ is up in arms at the Internet gambling industry, which is about a $5B/year industry worldwide, the illegal sports gambling industry in the U.S. rakes in as much as $380B/year.  (Yes, not a typo.  I've chased that figure back to the source -- $380 billion.)  But the sacred cow standing next to the elephant is Fantasy Sports.

I am a Fantasy Football widow.

I have read story after story about how someone lost a child or a spouse to the evils of casino gambling, but no one ever tells the sad tale of the home torn apart by Fantasy Sports.  No one ever depicts the ugly scenes on an October Sunday, when one child wants to watch Buzz Lightyear and the other wants Daddy to rake a big leaf pile, but Daddy sits on the couch with the remote in one hand, barely sentient, muttering, "Wait.  This guy's my receiver.  Can you move over a little?"  Opponents of Internet gambling point out that it is 24-hours a day.  With Fantasy Football, players have to watch every NFL game.  There's an NFL game on nearly every day during the season.  (I have no idea how Fantasy Baseball widows cope.)  Time not spent watching TV is spent at the computer.  "Sure, honey.  But first I have to make some trades."  You may not lose your life savings, but you can lose your sanity.

But Fantasy Sports are impervious to regulation and completely out in the open where any one can play.  ESPN, NFL, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, the television networks, just about everybody has a fantasy sports site where you and your friends can create a fantasy sports league and be provided various levels of statistics and analysis for various fees.  No one in Congress seems to care, and the "league managers," or site sponsors, seem not to know that within these sports leagues, gambling takes place.  They would be shocked, shocked to realize that people were not playing for the mere love of the game.  (I'm picturing walking into a headshop in the 70's and telling someone who looks like Chong what people actually do with bongs.   Chong looks shocked, shocked.)

So, let's get this straight for the audience back home.  I live in Wisconsin.  If I decided to bet with Jason in my suite (hi, Jason!) on the Green Bay Packers v. Minnesota Vikings game, that's illegal under WI law.  If I called him or emailed about the bet, then we would also be breaking federal law (Wire Act).  If I placed a bet with an offshore bookie, then I would be breaking both state and federal law.  However, if Jason and I create a fantasy football league on espn.com, ESPN will never ask us if we are wagering on who will win the fantasy football league.  We're just doing it for fun, right?  We're just spending thousands of hours a week for fun, right?

In all three bills introduced in the 108th Congress seeking to prohibit Internet gambling (H.R. 21, H.R. 2143, and S. 627, the definition of "bets and wagers" excluded two types of activities.  The first exclusion applies to stocks, commodoties, derivatives, and insurance products.  (Interesting that we would have to sort that out.)  The second exclusion was:  Fantasy Sports!!!

S. 627, 108th Cong. s. 5361(1)(E)(viii) (2003):  "any participation in a simulation sports game, an educational game, or a contest, that (I) is not dependent solely on the outcome of any single sporting event or nonparticipant's singular individual performance in any single sporting event; (II) has an outcome that reflects the relative knowledge of the participants, or their skill at physical reaction or physical manipulation (but not chance), and, in the case of a simulation sports game, has an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events; and (III) offers a prize or award to a participant that is established in advance of the game or contest and is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of any fees paid by those participants."

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» Fantasy Football Widows: from The Volokh Conspiracy ...
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This, from Christine Hurt at Conglomerate, is hilarious. Be sure to read the ..." [more] (Tracked on July 29, 2005 @ 13:31)

» Fantasy Football Widows: from The Volokh Conspiracy ...
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This, from Christine Hurt at Conglomerate, is hilarious. Be sure to read the ..." [more] (Tracked on July 29, 2005 @ 13:33)

» Fantasy Football Widows and Orphans from Dummocrats.com ...
"Fantasy Football Widows and Orphans ..." [more] (Tracked on July 30, 2005 @ 17:33)
» Fantasy Football Widows and Orphans from Inthehat.com ...
"Fantasy Football Widows and Orphans ..." [more] (Tracked on July 30, 2005 @ 17:35)
» Pot, Kettle, Black from Off Wing Opinion ...
"In a post about the blind spot in federal anti-gambling law regarding fantasy sports, Christine Hurt ..." [more] (Tracked on August 3, 2005 @ 4:31)
» Pot, Kettle, Black from Off Wing Opinion ...
"In a post about the blind spot in federal anti-gambling law regarding fantasy sports, Christine Hurt ..." [more] (Tracked on August 3, 2005 @ 4:33)
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